Starting Carb Nite Diet for Fat Loss

Posted by on March 21, 2011

Definitely not me.

So it’s been 3 months since I set a goal of reaching 20% bodyfat by March 30th. It’s now March 21st and there’s no way I’m going to drop 5 pounds of fat and gain 1-2 pounds of lean muscle in 7 days — not at my current pace.

I have failed.

But that’s okay. I failed the same way a gazillion other people have failed: cutting calories.

Back in 2008, a friend of mine gave me a copy of his book, Carb Nite, which details a system of muscle-sparing fat loss that is something akin to a cyclic ketogenic diet. The system purports to manipulate hormone levels in order to make the body run on fat — and therefore never store fat — and then to keep the metabolism on an upward trend.

Keeping the metabolism on an upward trend is apparently something the traditional “just stay the course” low-carb diets like Atkins fail at. Many people reach a plateau where they should still be dropping fat, but their bodies have adjusted somehow; these people often resort to calorie-cutting, which tells the body to down-shift the metabolism even more. Kiefer explains this in his book, both scientifically and from his own personal experience doing a low carb slow-and-steady diet with disappointing results.

Anyway, here’s the short and “sweet” on how this diet works. You eat 30 grams of carbohydrates every day for 9 days. Then on the 10th day, starting at about 4pm, you eat all kinds of high-carb foods that would be off-limits on just about any other long-term lifestyle diet (which this diet is not) — pizza, doughnuts, bagels, even your favorite gluten-free baked treats made with all-organic ingredients (yes, the Wholesome Bakery tops my list for “carb night”).

How does this work?

Well, Tim Ferriss uses this same hormone manipulation technique in his Four Hour Body diet, although he doesn’t explain it to nearly the degree that Kiefer does in Carb Nite. And William Banting is usually credited as the first “dietitian” (he was a coroner who experimented on himself, to good effect) on record to figure out that it’s the QUALITY of a diet, not the QUANTITY consumed, that makes the difference in one’s constitution — and that eating very few carbohydrates but lots of fat was the key to fat loss.

You may notice I never say “weight loss”. I’m only interested in losing fat, obviously! If I dropped 5 pounds of fat but gained the equivalent poundage in muscle, I’d be a happy camper.

That’s why I have a bodyfat analyzer. Mine is on the cheap end of the spectrum, but it seems to be measuring consistently. It’s the fact that the numbers on this little machine haven’t budged much at all in 3 months that I’m switching to a plan that promises actual results and has the science to back it up.

I’ve spent a decade variously experimenting with calorie cutting, cardiovascular exercise, a raw vegan diet, and many other faddish approaches that ultimately have their roots in a carbohydrate-loving view of the human diet that may be completely unfounded — or at least, so says the primal diet world.

I think I can honestly say that there was one time in my life that calorie-cutting worked for me, but it was during a period of time where I just didn’t have time to deal with food, so I didn’t even notice! It was the slow-and-steady effect that probably only happens when you’re not stressing over it.

Anyway, let’s face it: many people probably do succeed on the calories-in/calories-out model, including the fitness experts who do slow cardio every morning. But there’s actually not much evidence showing that this approach works for too many people. And I know it doesn’t work too well for me — particularly because I’m breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding, in fact, is one of the reasons I’m doing this diet. I’ve struggled to determine how many calories breastfeeding burns and come up short. So, while keeping a food diary did help me see how many calories I was eating per day, it’s hard to tell how many fewer I could eat and still produce milk enough to feed a growing baby who exists entirely on it alone.

Thus it gives me great peace of mind to be on a diet geared toward fat loss and muscle preservation that doesn’t force me to cut calories at all.

I am actually now halfway through the first 10 days of this system, having started this past Wednesday, and if this past week had a theme song, it would be called “And I’m Still Hungry!?” I have slabbed tons of butter on things, including steak, and still wound up with an appetite for more. So I eat. And I record what I eat — and in the final tally, I’m eating almost EXACTLY the same number of calories as in my “balanced” diet.

So if this diet works, it will be because of its stated pathway of hormone manipulation, not because of calorie cutting!

Many more thoughts have come to mind — like whether ketosis would be a problem for breastfeeding — so stay tuned for more blog posts where hopefully I ramble a little less and stay on a focused topic a little more.

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  • Pat McNamara

    did this end up working for you? please share the results! thanks a bunch.

    • nthmostfit

      Oh my gosh, yes. The results are in the pics on my sidebar and also in my “About” page. The “About” page shows you my progression over time. What you see on the sidebar is my results after about 6 months of doing Carb Nite.

      I ended up losing about 8 pounds of fat and gaining 5 or so pounds of muscle while doing Carb Nite, and switched to Carb Back-Loading when I reached about 20% bodyfat.

      • mike

        While I agree with the science and I am currently on Carb Nite, we all have to realize for many it is calorie restricted. It is about 2000 calories a day for those over 150 pounds, that can be a sever restriction for someone at 230.

      • mike

        That is an excellent ratio of fat lost to lean mass gained. I too seem to be tracking more fat loss than weight loss leading me to believe I could be adding lean mass. I am conservative on protein and higher on fat. Fat is what is supposed to help spare the muscle. Carb Nite is advising nearly 200 grams of protein a day (for over 150 lbs) that seems extreme to me, especially if you read up on ketogenic diets.

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